"Uh. . . . .do you want me to drive?" Jerry asked, uncertain of what to do.
"No, I'll drive." Manfred walked to the driver's seat door and opened it. "Are you two coming?"
"Yeah, sure." Jerry climbed into the backseat, and motioned for Derek to enter.
Derek climbed into the front seat, slammed the door shut and yanked the seatbelt on. "No point in not going." he muttered. "Let's get out of here."
"O-kay." Manfred started the car.
After a few minutes, his observation instincts (which had never left him) began to
Whenever they hit a bump in the road, or he braked suddenly, Jerry would jump and grip his laptop case tighter then it had been a moment before. Derek's eyes would dart whenever they turned or stopped, although he never moved.
Manfred stopped the car on a street near the edge of the city center and bought a deck of cards from a dollar store. Then, he made for the edge of the city itself, where he brought the car up a dirt road to the place he had found Valerie Mason.
When they passed then entrance, Jerry's eyes widened. "You're takin' us to a prison, Man? Who's so important that we're coming to a place like this?"
Manfred parked in a visitors spot and climbed out. Derek and Jerry followed quickly.
"Who're we visiting?" Jerry demanded, the unspoken vow of silence broken. "How many times have you been here? Is it someone I've looked up? C'mon, just tell us! We've gotta at least know who she is before we go to-"
"We're here to see Valerie Mason." Manfred said to the guard at the desk, ignoring Jerry's questions. "Please. We don't have much time."
The guard blinked in disbelief. "You're bringing friends this time?" he asked. "I'm not sure that's allowed-"
"According to the Rights of Visitors Act, it states that if an officer or retired officer brings two to four people with him, they are allowed to enter." Manfred forced a card from his pocket. "Let us in. I'll give you a reference if you want."
"Valerie Mason." Jerry repeated increduously. Even Derek looked completely surprised.
This guard had been there the first and only other time that Manfred had visited her. While he had suspected something about Manfred, he hadn't known anything. Manfred could tell from the surprised look on his face that he did not look like former MTA material.
"A. . alright, sir, go at your will. Just show the ID card at the. . ."
Manfred walked away. He had visited prisons a couple of times before. He knew how it worked.
He heard Derek and Jerry following behind him.
"Wait up, Man! What is going on?" Jerry was exclaiming.
"Just follow him, Extra." Derek snapped.
"But can't we at least get a little briefing before we have to meet her? Isn't she supposed to be crazy or something?"
"You think too much."
"And you don't think enough!"
"Stop it!" Manfred whirled around. "What are you, a couple of teenagers? Be quiet and follow me."
"Can't you at least give us some sorta warning about this kind of thing?" Jerry shot back.
"Alright. We'll talk about her on the way." Manfred turned around.
Derek followed, pulling Jerry along by the arm. "So talk." he said.
Manfred nodded. "Valerie Mason is a very sensitive person. You'll be surprised by her when you meet her. And she's not that crazy. Not completely."
"But I looked her up again." Jerry said, trying to free his arm from Derek's grip. "All those news reports and cases and things. . .they all sounded like she was a total lunatic."
"She wouldn't be in a correction center if she was a completely lunatic." Manfred said. "She'd be a prison that caters to offenders with highly dangerous mental health problems.
"There're places like that?"
"Yes, there are."
"Oh." was all he could say to that. "Sounds too professional. Whatever. But is she crazy?"
Manfred stopped, and waited for a guard to open the door. "She's not totally off the deep end." he said with a shrug.
When the door opened, they saw a woman with curly hair, which tumbled all the way down her back. She turned around and greeted Manfred with a real smile, not the smirk she usually wore.
"Hey, kid." she said. "Thanks for getting a bigger room this time."